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14 Habitat families celebrate their new Bronx homes

Fourteen Habitat-NYC families received the keys to their new homes just in time for Christmas at The Melody, the newest of Habitat-NYC’s projects of low-income working affordable housing in Longwood, South Bronx, named for the neighborhood’s musical legacy.

The new Habitat-NYC families received keys to their new homes at a formal home dedication held at nearby Transfiguration Lutheran Church. A very happy Congressman Jose E. Serrano for the 16th District in the Bronx, among those who gave remarks, said, “I’ve been around long enough to remember when people were ready to give up on the South Bronx. I can go back to Washington with more strength on Monday, knowing that people are doing the right thing.”

Two blocks from there, at The Melody’s six-story building entrance at Marcy Place and Prospect Ave., Rajnarine Singh, age 11, whose parents are Guyana-born, led the GREEN ribbon cutting –the building is LEED platinum green certified. From there, each family cut the ribbon to their individual homes.

In the Singh home, a Hindu Pandit (priest) with a conch shell and incense to awaken the spirit officiated in the blessing. Dhanwatti, the mom, smiled as she spoke of now having “ a place that you can call your home; our first property.” In the home ownership class, that is required to take, she’s learned about patching walls and home repairs, and budgeting. Her husband, Ram, did most of the sweat equity hours required.

Janet Vanegas moved from the country of Jamaica to New York in 1997. She is moving into a 3-bedroom apartment that will accommodate her and her two daughters. “I grew up with a culture that home ownership is instilled, at an early age,” she said. Currently, she is a Harlem resident. “I’ve always lived in cramped and inconvenient apartments. I never veered away from the idea of home ownership. As a single mother, I saved, hoped and prayed.”

Ms. Vanegas was searching for an affordable alternative for a while when she looked at the NYC.gov HPD website and saw the HabitatNYC posting for the Prospect Ave./Macy building. It was for her “perfect”; she fit the income and family-size guidelines.

As for the required six weeks of hands-on construction classes she was required to take with eleven other future home owners, she smiles at the sense of accomplishment. At the training site in Brooklyn, along with the use of tools, Ms. Vanegas learned how to patch a hole, lay a floor, and install an electrical fixture. “I realized I could be independent with home repair.” She worked her required “sweat equity” hours primarily with the Brush With Kindness program.

Like the others, Carol Eady, a social worker, was beaming on dedication day, looking forward to moving in with her daughter, niece and great niece. Currently living in a crime-ridden and violent neighborhood, among other benefits, Ms. Eady sees her new home as a chance for the family to heal from the loss of Nivea’s mom and brother.

This beautiful building encourages physical activity. In addition to the fitness room on the ground floor and children’s playground in the back, to encourage people to take the stairs. along with friendly hints at the elevator, music is piped into the stairwell that is graced with music-themed art.

The project marks the second partnership of its kind, both locally and nationally, in which Habitat for Humanity-NYC partnered with a for-profit affordable housing developer, Blue Sea Development Company, and the City of New York. Fourteen of the 63 units in The Melody will be owned by Habitat-NYC families, who helped build the interiors of their units, working alongside volunteers.

With the help of thousands of volunteers every year, Habitat-NYC has built more than 220 affordable homes in the five boroughs of New York City. Learn more at: www.habitatnyc.org.

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